Looking for growth? Be sure to avoid this common pitfall.

The streetlight effect, or the drunkard's search principle, is a type of bias occurring when people search for something where it's easiest to look, rather than where it is smart. Both names are derived from a well-known joke:

A policeman sees a drunkard searching for something under a streetlight.

Policeman: "What have you lost?"

Drunkard: "I've lost my keys." 

They spend some time looking for the keys together under the streetlight.

Policeman: "Are you sure you lost them here?"

Drunkard: "No, I lost them in the park." 

Policeman: "So, why are you searching here?"

Drunkard: "This is where the light is." 

This anecdote goes back a long-time. Many comparable examples of the streetlight effect relate to companies wanting to identify and generate organic growth. Many of us will have encountered the wisdom of the collective in a company, stating:

Management: "We need to grow! So, go and create a shiny new product." 

Employees: "But if we improved the selling or marketing of our current products. Surely, we would grow our sales?!" 

Management: "We need to grow! So, go and create a shiny new product." 

Do you recognise this scenario above?

It's not about being fast; it's about being right and fast.
When the clear and present message is "let's get growing now", it's often coupled with pressure from stakeholders or a sense of risk to your business or livelihood. It's uncomfortable, understandable and completely natural. We move into 'the light' and launch new programmes in the quest for rapid growth and results to show for it. But, to look under the streetlight is the fast way to do anything -  yet merely being fast can be the shortcut to yielding nothing. The drunkard knows they will fail and wastes effort anyway.

Instead, we need to recognise and combat the streetlight effect by considering the smart approach, keeping stakeholders at bay with a robust roadmap that's more likely to deliver the desired results. It might seem counterintuitive to look for growth in the dark, but you already know that you'll find growth there eventually (or your keys - check the back of the sofa!). 

What creates the conditions of such behaviour and inertia? Could it be the more comfortable option prevails because we have a knowledge gap? Do we lack customer data and insight? Is it because we don't have enough time?* Is it because moving quickly under the light gives us that illusionary good feeling of doing something and making any progress? But, as we know, it's not about being fast and doing anything quickly. It's about being decisive, choosing the smart plan at pace and not looking for growth where you already know you can't find it. It might be the more challenging option, to wade through the darkness, but eventually, the sun will rise and you'll find your keys to growth.

*Are you sure? Don’t worry, we can help with that too! 

Make sure you've got the right foundations to grow

Sometimes, we would rather chase the shiny new thing. We can all identify with this scenario, but the logic presented makes it seem evident that this will lead us away from the growth we need. So, why do so many of us fall into this trap and how can we avoid it? 

It helps to regularly review your set up and check you have the right foundations, and ways of working, to accelerate the growth of our current product, service or proposition (bundle). Making growth priority number one by:

  1. Creating a performance climate where everyone talks about growth as a common language. 
  2. Finding the growth opportunities in YOUR market(s) and be a good study - keep up to date on how your market is changing. 
  3. Knowing your customers, their journey and identifying the key moments that matter for them.

When you and your team know and share this insight, you'll recognise the keys to growth can be in the dark park, and not under the light

At gloo, we can help you identify key moments that matter for your customers; the high and low points throughout their journey and any frictions in the experience that cause increased customer effort or churn. In short, we can help you find your "keys" to growth! Subscribe below and contact us today to create a growth plan that will work for you and your business.

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